Faith groups are a big boost
LAST year the House of Commons’ All Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society developed a Covenant for Engagement – to support faith communities to work with local authorities constructively and effectively.
The Covenant is a joint commitment between churches, other faith groups and local councils to a set of principles that guide engagement and promote open, practical working.
Under the Covenant, local authorities commit to welcoming the involvement of faith groups in the delivery of services and social action on an equal basis with other groups.
In return, it requires faith-based organisations to commit to working actively with local councils in the design and delivery of services to the public.
As chair of the Assembly cross -party group on faith, I am extremely keen to see a similar Covenant adopted by local authorities in Wales.
While many have long recognised the fantastic contribution of churches, mosques and other faith communities to life in Wales, the Faith in Wales, Counting Our Communities report published out by Gweini – the Council of the Christian Voluntary Sector in Wales – underscored their imporortance by revealing thee sheer scale and breadth of that contribution.
The report found that religious and faith organisations contribute more than £100m in economic benefits to o Wales every year and thatat around 40,000 unpaid volunteers do 80,000 hoursurs of community work each week.
In addition to volunteers, the groups employed a further 1,400 paid staff working around 23,000 hours per week. It also revealed that faith communities play an important role in protecting our heritage by maintaining more than 1,600 listed buildings across the country, helping to secure visits from 2.5 million people annually.
Many Christian communities in particular were able to demonstrate a significant contribution to promoting the Welsh language and culture, with a third of churches and chapelsp in Wales holding services in WelshWe and 800 hosting othe other Welsh languageba based activities.
The study also conc cluded that faith groups provide accommodation for other non-religious local organisati tions playing an im important part in fostering grass roots music and sport sports. A Fait Faith Covenant for Wales would help to cement a respect for their efforts and provide a set of working principles to help us all get the biggest social benefit, as those public services continue to change. Organisations and the services they provide can only become stronger if we all work together.